The social events objectives of The Worshipful Company of Actuaries

August 2nd, 2015

Question: What are the social events objectives of The Worshipful Company of Actuaries?

worshipful logo

Answer: The answer appears on the web site of The Worshipful Company of Actuaries, on the page devoted to “Social Events Objectives”, in a downloadable PDF document named “Social Events Objectives”. Here is that document, reproduced in its entirety (and shrunken a bit, so it fits on this screen):



Neuromarketing challenge: dinosaur automobiles

August 1st, 2015

We pose this challenge about dinosaurs and automobiles and marketing.

[BACKGROUND: Because the word “marketing” is no longer as futuristic as it was in the past, the still-kinda-new field of neuromarketing (read about it here, here, and here, or use your own cogno-intellectual powers to come up with your own definition)  is the place to go for innovative confabulations.]

Here is our Challenge to Marketers and Car Manufacturers— Do an experiment to answer the question: Would automobiles sell much better if more models were named after dinosaurs?

(Self-tested!) Intravenous garlic juice herpes treatment (new patent)

July 31st, 2015

Inventor Behnam Azizkhani describes a newly patented (US 9,089,597) medical treatment (for herpes and other conditions) involving intravenous diluted garlic juice injections – which were self-tested. The patent includes this compelling technical drawing; the inventor is represented, graphically, as the bottommost element of the drawing:Garlic-Treatment
Please note: Improbable strongly recommends that interested parties should consult qualified medical professionals before undertaking any treatments, garlic-juice based or otherwise, for herpes, antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, cutaneous Leishmaniasis, malaria, multiple sclerosis or any other diseases or medical conditions mentioned in the patent.  

Here’s further detail from the patent:

Injection Results, First Human Trials on the Inventor

After reviewing the results from the tests on the animals, the inventor decided to try an IV injection of garlic solution on himself as an initial human trial. The first trial was performed on Mar. 29, 1996, and a syringe was filled with 25 cc of garlic solution, where the garlic solution was made from 5 cc of pure garlic juice and 20 cc of normal saline. The inventor injected 0.5 cc of the garlic solution directly into his vein and noticed a very biting and sharp pain that started at the injection point and followed the path of the vein to the inventor’s heart. The inventor waited several minutes, and then mixed the remaining 24.5 cc of garlic solution into 500 cc of normal saline, and then continued injecting the diluted garlic solution over the course of 2 hours.

The inventor monitored his vital signs during the injection of garlic solution, including his blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and temperature. The inventor also tested his complete blood count (CBC), serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT), and serum glutamic pyruvate transaminase (SGPT) tests both before the injection, and 16 hours after the injection. The inventor noted his heart beat increased to 110 to 115 beats per minute after the initial (high concentration) injection, and this condition continued for approximately 4 hours after finishing all the injections. The inventor’s SGOT test before the injection was within the normal range of 0-37, and 16 hours after the injection the SGOT test increased to 43. The inventor’s SGPT test before the injection was within the normal range of 0-41, and 16 hours after the test the SGPT was 57. The inventor repeated these tests 3 days after the injection, and all the results were within the normal ranges and were almost the same as before the injection. The inventor’s weight was approximately 70 kilograms (kg) for the entire test period described herein.

Click to continue reading “(Self-tested!) Intravenous garlic juice herpes treatment (new patent)”

Building on Ig Nobel-winning cereal soggification research

July 30th, 2015

There’s news about soggy-cereal research — a study called “Crunchiness Loss and Moisture Toughening in Puffed Cereals and Snacks,” by Micha Peleg, published in the Journal of Food Science, epub July 29, 2015.

Peleg, at the University of Massachusetts, builds on the research of — among others — 1995 Ig Nobel Nutrition Prize winners D.M.R. Georget, R. Parker, and A.C. Smith of the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK. Georget, Parker, and Smith were awarded that prize for their rigorous analysis of soggy breakfast cereal, called “A Study of the Effects of Water Content on the Compaction Behaviour of Breakfast Cereal Flakes“. The Georget/Parker/Smith paper was published in the journal Powder Technology in 1994. (That particular Ig Nobel Prize drew an unexpected reaction from the then-chief scientific advisor to the British government.)

Peleg reports, in his new study:

Peleg“Upon moisture uptake, dry cellular cereals and snacks loose their brittleness and become soggy. This familiar phenomenon is manifested in smoothing their compressive force–displacement curves. These curves’ degree of jaggedness, expressed by their apparent fractal dimension, can serve as an instrumental measure of the particles’ crunchiness. The relationship between the apparent fractal dimension and moisture content or water activity has a characteristic sigmoid shape. The relationship between the sensorily perceived crunchiness and moisture also has a sigmoid shape whose inflection point lies at about the same location. The transition between the brittle and soggy states, however, appears sharper in the apparent fractal dimension compared with moisture plot. Less familiar is the observation that at moderate levels of moisture content, while the particles’ crunchiness is being lost, their stiffness actually rises, a phenomenon that can be dubbed “moisture toughening.” We show this phenomenon in commercial Peanut Butter CrunchR (sweet starch-based cereal), Cheese Balls (salty starch-based snack), and Pork Rind also known as “Chicharon” (salty deep-fried pork skin), 3 crunchy foods that have very different chemical composition.”

Here’s video of other, unrelated investigators investigating soggy chicharon:

Here’s further detail, about force and strain in cheese balls, from Peleg’s study:


Alexandra Ossola reports on the report, in Popular Science, under the slightly exaggerated headline “SCIENCE FINALLY UNDERSTANDS HOW CEREAL GETS SOGGY“.

(Thanks to Jennifer Ouellette for bringing this to our attention.)

Independently, an inventor named Michael Roberts developed a cereal bowl that is said, commercially, to prevent cereal from becoming soggy. Inventor Roberts and his colleagues advertise this bowl under the brand name Obol. Here is their story, as told by them or persons acting at their behest, in the form of a commercial that does not explore so very much the time element that inevitably figures into the story of soggification:

Evaluation of environmental impacts: The case of pasta

July 30th, 2015

Think, if you will, of the pasta. This study demonstrates one way to begin doing that:

Evaluation of environmental impacts in the catering sector: The case of pasta,” Alessandra Fusi, Riccardo Guidetti, Adisa Azapagic, Journal of Cleaner Production, epub 2015. (Thanks to Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy and at the University of Manchester, UK, report:

“This study, based in Italy, focuses on environmental impacts of deferred catering with the aim of evaluating different options for food preparation and distribution, to help identify environmentally sustainable solutions. For these purposes, the case of pasta, one of the most popular foods worldwide, is considered. Two main types of deferred system (cook-warm and cook-chill) and cooking technologies (pasta cookers and range tops) used in the catering sector are evaluated. The results suggest that cooking in pasta cookers saves up to 60% of energy and 38% of water compared to range tops and therefore reduces by 34-66% the impacts associated with pasta preparation. The environmental impacts of pasta cooking could also be reduced by using gas rather than electric appliances as the impacts of the latter are higher by 13-98%.”

This video conveys some of the excitement of commercial pasta cooking using a commercial pasta cooker. Watching it, you can almost hear music playing in your head: